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Sprinting to Cable Mountain

Having just learned that there were trails from my base of operations at Zion Ponderosa Ranch, I drove back through Zion park and checked in at the activities desk where I was able to get detailed, but strangely imprecise directions to Cable Mountain, which would have been a 15 mile roundtrip hike from the Weeping Rock trailhead accessible from the shuttles at the Springdale entrance to the park.  But from the trailhead at the ranch, it would only be a 5 mile roundtrip, and I was assured that it would be scenic and historic (and pretty much level).  And I had another cheeseburger ready to go.

Since it was getting a bit late, and I didn't want to get caught in the dark, I set off immediately in my car on the dirt roads, of which there were a great many, leading in all directions, and not in the best shape due to recent flash flooding.  The map with which I had been provided was a bit lacking in key detail, but I did manage to find a place to park near what appeared to be the trail, and set off at a spritely pace, which got even more spritely when I came across signs indicating that this was actually going to be 7 miles roundtrip, rather than 5.  And not nearly as level as I had been led to believe.

The last mile of this hike is mostly downhill, which seems a bit unintuitive, but there is no mistaking the destination, as this is the site of a steam powered tram that was used to bring trees from the rim down to the canyon floor for construction. The trip apparently took 2 minutes, as opposed to a 2-day trip with horse-drawn wagons.  Obviously, it has not been in use for a good long time (70 years).  

On the way back to my car, I noticed the fork in the trail leading to Deertrap Mountain, which is another as yet uncheeseburgered summit, but it was too late, and I was too tired for another couple miles.  And I was out of cheeseburgers.  So Deertrap Mountain remains for another trip.


The Long Way Around to Observation Point

I have actually done this hike before on a previous trip to Zion, but not with a cheeseburger.  So, I thought I would give it another shot.  The hike starts at the Weeping Rock stop of the Zion shuttle.  This was the day before the park would close due to a government shutdown, but there were plenty of people on the shuttle.  Fortunately, most got off at the stop for Angel's landing.  The hike through Echo Canyon to Observation Point is not as scary as Angel's Landing, but it does have it's momments.

Observation Point had the advertised nice things to observe, scenerywise, but I have to say that other than my cheeseburger, the real entertainment was a rodent circus.  I just sat there for 15 minutes watching dozens of them running about, hopping from rock to rock, digging, and climbing stuff.  

On the way down, I noticed a group coming up a side trail, which was posted as 2.5 miles to the park boundary.  Their tour guide explained to me that this was a hike starting on private property, which is pretty much a level walk along the top of  the plateau.  I asked about this at the visitor center and was somewhat chagrined to learn that this hike actually starts on the property of the Zion Ponderosa ranch, which was where I was staying, near the park's east entrance.  So, instead of driving through the park, taking the shuttle to the trail, and hiking 4 miles up over 2000 ft of elevation, I could have just done the hike from the ranch.  But, on the other hand, that would have deprived me of the opportunity to have a very nice Mexican lunch in Springdale.

Bryce Benchmark

This was my second trip to Bryce National Park, but the first time with a cheeseburger in hand.  Last time I did the Fairyland Loop, but this time decided to do the figure 8 version of Navajo, Peekaboo and Queen's Garden trails, starting at Sunrise Point, with a plan to hike up to Bryce Point for my summit.  Alas, the trail to Bryce Point was closed due to a rockfall, which may have been just as well, since it is less of a climb to get back to Sunset Point, although one might be deterred by the threatening signs.

Upon reaching the top, from whence I had come, I drove to Bryce Point and joined the hoards strolling to the observation point.  Along the way, I encountered the benchmark.

However, I decided to consume my cheeseburger on the highest point I could locate instead.

Interestingly, there were two benchmarks along the trail at the bottom of the canyon, but these are not summits.  Rather, they are special markers and if you bring rubbings of 3 of them from thoughout the park, you will be rewarded a "modest prize" in connection with the Hiking the Hoodoos progam.  I was going to try, but then I realized that maybe this is not a progam for adults, as evidenced by the mention of the Junior Ranger booklet.


There are many other summits on the map of Bryce, but I'm not sure if they are accessible except by being dropped by helicopter onto the top of a rock formation.  It is worth finding out, though.

Riggs Hill


While staying at Robin and Paul’s house in Grand Junction, in the Redlands area, there is a very close cheeseburger summit.  Grab a cheeseburger, and head to the trailhead of not only the summit, but of a historic site of a dinosaur quarry.  This is where the world’s first brachiasaurus was discovered, along with skeletons of stegosaurus and allosaurus.  Unfortunately, this was an unprotected site so there are no longer any dinosaur bones to be found.  But the view from the top was beautiful and the burger was consumed.

Looking up at Riggs Hill.

Thompson Benchmark


On our way to Vail, Colorado for a wedding, Tom Patton wanted to stop to see the famous petroglyphs and pictographs at Thompson Springs along I-70 north of Moab.  Lo and behold, there is a cheeseburger summit near the Thompson Springs exit.  We stopped in Green River to pick up a cheeseburger and were able to drive to near the top of the summit.


Just in case we might not know that we are here.


Then on to see the awe-inspiring pictographs and petroglyphs drawn by the ancient ones:  Barrier, Fremont, and Ute cultures.

Pointless Pitt and Page Hill

This was kind of a pointless hike, as it was way too long with not much payoff.  If you had the right kind of vehicle, you could easily have driven to the top of this summit, but I ended up walking about 4 miles each way.  It's not very scenic by Uinta standards, either.

FR 107 is a just a little bit down Highway 150 from the Shady Dell campground, and I was able to drive up to the intersection with FR 170.  After that, the road degenerates so that you wouldn't want to drive it in a sedan.

The road to the summit goes on a long loop around a ridge, and I couldn't find a trail that just went straight up to the not terrifically high "peak".  In retrospect, I probably should have just bushwacked my way through the woods, but I followed the road almost all the way, only peeling off towards the end.  The trees are not particularly dense, and it was very easy to just head uphill.  I roamed around for a considerable amount of time without finding a benchmark, but I was able to find a high point where I could consume my homemade cheeseburger.

Looking over the edge, in the general direction of my car, I noted a steep rockfall, which looked navigable, and a long flat stretch of forest that seemed like it would be easy to cross.  This was preferable to the long road home, so I decided to uncharacteristically be adventurous and give it a shot.  As you can see in the picture below, the fall colors are just starting to develop in the area.

This plan was a success, although it did not end up saving me any time, as it took awhile to carefully make my way down the loose boulders.  I was especially careful, as there was no cell phone service and I didn't have a knife with me in the event that I had to deal with a trapped limb. Later, walking through the forest below, I did notice some large paw prints in the mud that are probably from bears, but no live animals were seen.  

Cardiff Peak by Mistake

Having worked over the weekend, I concluded that it would be OK to play hooky from work on a Monday morning to enjoy the outdoors.  After a couple weeks of relatively easy hikes in the Uintas I decided it was time to try something a bit more strenuous closer to home.  So, I set off for Flagstaff Peak, billed as a short, but steep hike.  I easily located the trailhead near Alta and started up the road.  Which was steep.  However, in a pattern that is becoming all too familiar, I took a wrong turn at some point and ended up standing on a ridge looking at what I guessed was Flagstaff mountain with no sign of a feasible path to the summit.  Adding to my discomfort was the unanticipated hail, wind and cold.  However, rather than give up, I noticed that there was another peak on the other side of the ridge with some sort of structure on top. This one looked kind of doable, so I headed in that direction, even though this was not a comfortable trail, as it traverses a very steep hillside with not so great footing.  I resisted the temptation to wait out the rain in this cave just before the trail looped around a rocky outcropping.  

After looping around to the other side of the summit, the trail got worse.  Despite my nervousness, I was able to circle around the peak and find a route to the top where I managed to eat my cheeseburger in what was now a steady cold rain.  There were signs that the views from this peak into Big Cottonwood canyon are spectacular, but I could only catch a glimpse through the fog and mist.  Eventually, I figured out that I was on Cardiff Peak, easily recognizable (in retrospect) by the weather station on the top. 

Cardiff Peak has been conquered by Cheeseburger Summitteers previously, in the winter, which while beyond my skill set, probably has its advantages for experienced skiers, because the footing around the summit is pretty dicey for hiking when bare. All lose rocks and dirt with not much to hold on to.  I had some trouble finding my way back down the way I had ascended and I would definately not recommend this as a solo hike. 

Once I made it back around by the cave, it was relatively easy going to the base, where I resolved to try Flagstaff again after consulation with someone who knows their way around the area.

Wolf Creek Summit - A personal best by the side of the highway

Having attained unprecedent success by consuming 4 cheeseburgers on summits in a single morning (and all before 10:30 AM, I might add) I still had 1 cheeseburger left.  As I drove down Highway 35 back in the direction of Kamas, there was the sign for Wolf Creek Summit, previously conquered by In-N-Out bURGEr years ago.  But, I had a 5th cheeseburger burning a hole in my cooler, so I pulled over for the photo op (which I apparently took incompetantly, missing part of the sign).   Thus shattering all my previous records for summits in a single day.  A record that was accomplished with no more than an actually 60 to 90 minutes of actual hiking, producing a somewhat unfavorable calorie to exercise ration.  This personal record is likely to stand for quite awhile, as I doubt the stars will align this well in the future.

And perhaps the greatest triumph of the day was an entire drive back to Kamas without once getting stuck behind an RV going 15 MPH under the speed limit.

Wolf Benchmark - An easy number 4 for the morning

From Tree Benchmark, it was less them a five minute walk over to Wolf Benchmark.  This summit actually had a benchmark I could find, and there are signs that it is heavily used -- old campfires, fresh tire tracks, discarded beer cans, etc.

I ate my 4rth cheeseburger here and ambled down the road back to my car.

Tree Benchmark - Cracking number 3 for the first time

Having executed my plans flawlessly so far this particular morning, I headed down Highway 35 to see if I could break the curse that had so far prevented me from success beyond 2 summits in a single trip. Right around the corner from Wolf Creek Campground, I easily located FR 174, heading off into another beautiful Uinta area.  The road was in excellent shape, and it was not far before I could identify Tree and Wolf Benchmarks by the pattern of trees visible on the satellite photos I had meticulously studied earlier.  Both summits are on the same ridge, and it would probably be possible to drive even a standard car up to the top of Wolf Benchmark.  But I started off on Tree Benchmark via footpower.

Alas, this was another summit without a benchmark, at least that I could find, but I ate my 3rd cheeseburger in what seemed to be the right place and set off towards Wolf Summit on a very obvious trail along the ridge.